The cloud 9, all sex, all the time stage of your relationship is over with an exclamation point. Perhaps you’re nearing your first anniversary, or exhausted all the time by the demands of parenthood and career. Maybe you’re empty nesters who are gamely if awkwardly adjusting to being alone again.
V-Day may be circled on the calendar (what else is an officially-sanctioned couple to do?), but poring over the goopy prose featured on Hallmark cards at the store, you drool like a foodaholic on a diet, thinking, “I remember when I felt this way.”
The love, like, and honor parts of the relationship are more or less intact - but the newness, that spiritual connect of “we are one” has been closeted away like summer clothes.
Romance when you share the same bathroom, know your partner’s four-star stories backwards, forwards and sideways, and are infinitely familiar with his or her grating habits (i.e.: eyebrow tweezing in bed) cannot be the intoxicating rush of yore. But it can morph into something ultimately more special, because it will be grounded in who the two of you really are, not on the idealized selves presented during the courtship period.
As I write in my book, THE COMPLETE MARRIAGE COUNSELOR: Relationship-Saving Advice from America’s Top 50 + Couples Therapists (Adams, 2010), www.marriedfaq.com, “Many couples exist in a sometimes barely tolerable status quo. Day to day, things seem passable but occasionally one or both secretly wishes, ‘Gee, I wish things were more dynamic between us.’ No growth, no pain – but no effort, no gain.”
Your challenge then is stop taking one another for granted, believing it is up to your partner to make changes, and start working together to revitalize the relationship.
Here are the guidelines. During the six weeks before V-Day rears its heart-shaped head, have daily 10-minute check-ins where you share together time. You could hold hands, share a joke, look at pictures of your last vacation, gaze at the full moon… It’s not the action that counts but that you are doing it together.
Now here are the exercises, which I have successfully utilized with couples in my practice. These involve weekly couple “meetings” and individual homework assignments.
A Proviso: This is not a substitute for therapy. It is suggested for couples who have a nurturing, caring rapport, not for those whose dynamic is extremely dysfunctional.
If a New York-based couple is interested in a few in-person sessions during this period which would be video-taped, please contact me. Anyone embarking on this Challenge please feel free to contact me with questions and feedback on how things are going.
At the first meeting share what qualities in your partner first attracted you, as well as cherished memories of the courtship. Resolve to create new sustaining memories together. Homework involves a mutual resolve to create new sustaining memories. Before the next weekly meeting each will have come up with a creative and fun couple activity.
CAN’T SHUT IT? TAPE IT